Verizon Wireless to Open Network, Mostly
BILL WOLFF: From NPR News, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.
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ALISON STEWART, Host:
It's a Wednesday, November 28th. I'm Alison Stewart. Luke Burbank out today, so I'm holding down the fort, getting some help from Rachel Martin, who may be my hero because you're managing to have a social life with our schedule.
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RACHEL MARTIN, Host:
Not really. We went to dinner at 5 o'clock.
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STEWART: You went for the early bird special at Denny's?
MARTIN: Five o'clock, you would think no one would be in a restaurant. I was totally surprised. There were actually a lot of people out. We went to this steak house. My brother, his wife and their five-month-old baby are in town from Colorado. We went out to dinner, and I thought this is going to be a true nightmare. I mean, a five-month-old baby. Who does that?
STEWART: How'd it go?
MARTIN: Well, we walked in, and people looked at us like we were either really rich and famous and more accustomed to getting anything we want and doing anything we want.
STEWART: Oh, I like that.
MARTIN: Yeah. That wasn't the case. Or we were totally delusional, and - which is probably more the latter. But actually, it went really well. I was totally impressed with my brother and sister-in-law. They're like a well-oiled machine. Baby cries, take baby out. Baby needs to, you know, do a little business, take baby out and change. I mean, they were just like, we're over it. We are going out to dinner, come heck or high water. And...
STEWART: Well, there you go.
MARTIN: ...nothing will stop us. So I was inspired.
STEWART: Does this baby have a name?
MARTIN: The baby has a name. Baby's name is Charlie.
STEWART: Well, hi, Charlie. I hope you're listening.
MARTIN: Yeah, a little shout out to the Martin family.
STEWART: A future BPP listener. Okay, Rachel. I'm going to leave you alone. I'll let you go the news bunker and get your...
MARTIN: I've got very important things to write down.
STEWART: And we'll hear some music from Sondre Lerche. Yeah, that's how you pronounce it - I think. He wrote and performed the score of Steve Carrell's new movie, "Dan in Real Life." Here's a little taste to tide you over until we hear him for real.
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SONDRE LERCHE: (Singing) But you better be prepared to be surprised. And honey be prepared to be surprised. It's all I know. I'm not...
STEWART: But first, here is THE BPP's Big Story.
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STEWART: Ryan Block is the editor of the tech Web site, Engadget. So Ryan, what is the good news for Verizon's 64 million subscribers?
RYAN BLOCK: But I think that there might be a lot of bad news kind of lurking right under the surface that we're just not really aware of yet.
STEWART: So what does that mean? When we talk about Verizon's people, what does it mean for the rest of the wireless world?
BLOCK: Well, honestly, it doesn't mean a whole lot. It's unprecedented for Verizon, because Verizon uses a kind of network called CDMA that makes it really difficult to take other carrier's phones and put them on. But AT&T and T-Mobile both use a standard called GSM. And those kinds of devices are able to - I'm getting some interference on the line. Those kinds of devices are able to take pretty much any device from - that uses that standard anywhere in the world, as long as it's unlocked.
STEWART: It was Verizon breaking into your phone, because they heard you say there might be something lurking under the surface. Hey, what ways could it not be so great? What could be lurking?
BLOCK: Well, unfortunately, because of the way that Verizon's setting this whole thing up, they are saying it's open and it's free access, but we still have to certify it, and you're going to have to go through our standards. So in doing so, they could be, you know, letting people get the impression that they can run any device on their network. But if they don't give it a path, it's still not going to go on.
STEWART: What do you folks at Engadget think? Was this a surprise to you, that Verizon made this choice?
BLOCK: Now if you look back in what Verizon has been doing in the last six months, they actually haved filed suit against the FCC over the 700 megahertz wireless spectrum auction that's going to happen next January. I don't expect people to know what that really means. But basically, they filed suit against the FCC for the expressed purpose of trying to prevent open access to a lot of new radio waves that would basically present a lot of competition to them.
STEWART: So, in a way, though, this was coming down the pike anyway because of this FCC ruling.
BLOCK: So Verizon is a little bit down and out on that on that end. And I think they had to realize, that if they were going to come back on this - at least from a PR standpoint - they had to make a pretty bold announcement. And I think in doing so, and in still managing to try to keep control of the openness - which is a very Verizon thing to do, say they're going to be open, but really kind of, you know, clamp down some control on that openness, anyway. It's really hard to say exactly what consumers are going to really get out of this.
STEWART: Is it a valid skepticism?
BLOCK: And eventually, that system went away, and you just kind of bought the dial line and you can use your own phone. And it really opened up the whole ecosystem and made it really better for consumers and for the telecom companies. So that's pretty much the eventual direction that all the wireless companies are going to have to take, I mean, maybe in the next 10 years. I personally never really thought Verizon would be the first to take that step, and I'm still very skeptical that they're really going to be doing it.
STEWART: Ryan Block is the editor of the tech Web site, Engadget. Thanks for the explainer, Ryan.
BLOCK: Thank you very much.
STEWART: Now, here's Rachel Martin with even more news.
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